Half empty or half full? Water, sanitation and hygiene in Kenya

Whereas recent findings by Twaweza show that 62% of rural Kenyans have access to an improved water source compared to 78% of those living in urban areas, data from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the World Health Organization and UNICEF’s Joint Monitoring Program shows that in the last few decades there has been a decline of water access from improved water sources in urban areas (at 90% in 1990) and an improvement for rural citizens (at 35% in 1990). Despite the rapid increase in access to improved water sources in rural areas, citizens there remain disadvantaged. One in four (26%) spend at least one hour collecting water compared to one in ten citizens (12%) in urban areas. In addition, in 92% of households in Kenya, the burden of water collection falls on women (71%) and children (21%). 

These findings were released by Twaweza in a research brief titled Half empty or half full? Water, sanitation and hygiene in Kenya. The brief is based on data from Sauti za Wananchi, Africa’s first nationally representative high-frequency mobile phone survey. The findings are based on data collected from 1,741 respondents across Kenya from 5 to 28 November 2016. The findings are useful for review and reflection on Kenya's efforts towards providing access to improved water supply and sanitation services for its citizens.

Overall 68% of Kenyans have access to an improved water source, although this varies significantly by wealth groups; where 87% of the wealthiest compared to 48% of the poorest have access to improved water sources. In rural areas, the most commonly used source of water is surface water (26%) which is an unimproved source and in urban areas the most common source of water is a public tap (32%) which is classified as an improved source. In urban areas 53% of citizens have access to piped water compared to 30% in rural areas.

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